Keep an anti-choice agenda out of Virginia’s budget & restore reproductive health care programs

You may have heard that the latest outrageous, disrespectful remark about women’s reproductive rights to stir up national ridicule and backlash came from Virginia’s own state Senator Steve Martin (R-Chesterfield). In a Facebook post dismissing a Valentine’s Day card he received from our Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition, in which we urged him to support access to the full range of reproductive health care services for Virginians, Sen. Martin referred to pregnant women as “hosts” for a child and otherwise showed just how little he gets what’s at stake. His post as a whole was another insight into how little respect and understanding anti-choice lawmakers like Senator Martin have for women’s reproductive lives and deeply personal decisions.

But current anti-choice attacks in Virginia’s General Assembly go beyond what politicians are saying — they’re also trying to push their agenda into law through the budget.

The version of Virginia’s two-year budget approved by the House of Delegates last week includes several amendments that push an anti-choice agenda and go after reproductive health care access, particularly for low-income Virginians. If passed, the House-approved budget amendments would:

  • Defund Planned Parenthood, blocking thousands of Virginians from receiving affordable preventative reproductive health care services like birth control and cancer screenings at their chosen provider (4-5.04 #3h)
  • Taking away coverage for abortion care for low-income, Medicaid-eligible pregnant women who are diagnosed with severe fetal anomalies, thereby taking away options from vulnerable families at a difficult time (4-5.04 #6h)
  • The budget even includes a laughable amendment from Delegate Bob Marshall to prevent Gov. McAuliffe from using executive action to repeal TRAP regulations – something the law doesn’t allow him to do anyway! (4-5.04 #4h)

Meanwhile, the House’s approved budget did not include several budget amendments passed by the Senate that would restore funding for programs that actually promote reproductive health care access for all Virginians, like:

  • Plan First, which provides family planning services for low-income people (301 #38s)
  • FAMIS MOMS, which is health coverage for low income pregnant women to ensure they can access prenatal and maternity care (301 #17s)
  • Marketplace Virginia, a common-sense compromise to close the Medicaid coverage gap and ensure that up to 250,000 Virginians have comprehensive, affordable health care (more info)
The budget now moves to a joint conference committee of House and Senate members who will decide what appears in the final budget. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and our coalition partners are  urging the conference committee to remove the House amendments that would restrict reproductive health care access, and instead restore funding to critical reproductive health safety-net programs and work to extend health care coverage to more Virignians.

Pro-Choice Candidate Profile: Rob Farinholt, District 94

By: Marieke van Rijn, Advocacy and Communications Intern

Rob Farinholt is a firefighter and paramedic, a life-long resident of Hampton Roads, and a 100% pro-choice candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates.  Farinholt is running against Republican incumbent David Yancey to be the representative of District 94, which encompasses Newport News City. Farinholt is not running to go to Richmond to discuss partisan politics, but to enact legislation that could bring together the people of District 94 and boost their economy.

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Farinholt’s opponent Yancey was elected in 2011 and wasted no time passing incredibly partisan bills. Yancey received a 0% pro-choice rating for the 2012-2013 cycle for voting in favor of medically unnecessary ultrasounds, “personhood” legislation, and prohibiting state funding for abortion. Judging by his voting record, it is clear that Yancey is on a crusade against women’s right to choose. 14.4% of people in the Newport News area live below the poverty line, so it is especially insensitive for Yancey to vote in favor of a bill that would harmfully impact so many women in his district’s right to choose.

Farinholt is committed to protecting a woman’s right to a confidential patient-doctor relationship, and to defending women from the privacy invasions of these anti-choice laws. Farinholt plans to work to roll back some of the extreme bills passed last session. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia strongly encourages you to devote your time, resources, or money to Farinholt’s campaign, because it is important for more pro-choice voices to be heard in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Pro-Choice Candidate Profile: Monty Mason, District 93

By: Marieke van Rijn, Advocacy and Communications Intern

Monty Mason is campaigning to represent District 93, which encompasses parts of Newport News City, James City County, Williamsburg City, and York County, in the Virginia House of Delegates. Mason is running against Republican incumbent Mike Watson. Watson was elected to the House of Delegates in 2011, and voted in favor of the major bills that played a role in the war on women in Virginia during the 2012 legislative session.

Monty Mason

Mason, a father of two young daughters, believes that Virginia must move beyond the divisive politics of Washington DC and reinvest in Virginia- which in part means protecting women’s reproductive rights. Monty Mason is a 100% pro-choice candidate because of his beliefs that the General Assembly needs to take common sense measures to protect women’s reproductive rights and the privacy of their medical decisions.

If elected, one of Mason’s mail goals would be to protect and restore the rights of women in Virginia. Although District 93 favored pro-choice candidates in the 2012 elections, we still urge you to donate your time, money, or resources to Mason’s campaign, because it is essential that the war on women that took place during the 2012 legislative session is not repeated this year.

Pro-Choice Candidate Profile: James Harder, District 12

By: Marieke van Rijn, Advocacy and Communications Intern

James Harder is a 5th generation Montgomery County resident, PhD student at Virginia Tech, and a 100% pro-choice candidate. Harder is running against anti-choice incumbent Joseph Yost to represent District 12, which includes Montgomery County, Giles County, and Pulaski County and Radford City, in the Virginia House of Delegates.

James Harder

Harder is the grandson of former delegate Joan Munford, who was a champion of women’s healthcare and reproductive rights during her time. Harder cites the extreme stances Yost took on women’s healthcare as one of the reasons he decided to enter the race. Harder plans to follow in his grandmother’s footsteps to fight for women’s reproductive rights and believes that the discussion of women’s rights should not be limited to reproductive rights- he also plans to advocate for policies that will establish equal pay and maternity leave.

 

While Harder respects a woman’s right to privacy regarding her reproductive decisions and is an advocate for the various other issues that impact the women of Virginia, incumbent Joseph Yost has a very strong anti-choice voting record. Since being elected in 2011, Yost has voted in favor of every bill that would limit a woman’s rights to a safe and legal abortion. Yost voted to support “personhood” legislation, medically unnecessary ultrasounds, and to prohibit state funding for abortion.

Attacks on women’s right to choose were able to take place because delegates like Joseph Yost supported them. Virginia needs delegates that will support women, not the anti-choice agenda. James Harder will be an advocate for women’s issues in Richmond, which is something the women of Virginia need greatly in the wake of the War on Women. We strongly encourage you to volunteer or donate to James Harder’s campaign.

Pro-Choice Candidate Profile: Kathleen Murphy, District 34

By: Marieke van Rijn, Advocacy and Communications Intern

Kathleen Murphy is challenging Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock for the District 34 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. District 34, which encompasses McLean, Great Falls, and parts of Fairfax and Loudoun County, has been represented by Comstock since 2009. Murphy, a longtime resident of McLean and president of Johnson, Murphy & Associates, is running for the district 34 seat because she believes that Barbara Comstock is not representing the best interests of the 34th district by siding with the extremist Republican majority in Richmond and is “egregious” in her anti-choice voting record.

Murphy has earned the endorsement of being a 100% pro-choice candidate by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia for her belief that women’s rights are human’s rights, and willingness to stand-up to the delegates in Richmond to protect women’s access to contraception and commitment to uphold women’s right to choose. In contrast, incumbent Comstock has a strong anti-choice voting record, having voted in favor of the personhood bill, and in favor of requiring medically unnecessary ultrasounds.

Kathleen Murphy

Despite showing no regard for the health and right of choice of the women in her district, Comstock has currently raised twice as much in campaign funding as Murphy. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia urges constituents of the 34th district to donate their time, services, or money to Murphy’s campaign, because it is imperative that district 34 is represented by someone who will stand up for women’s health and right to choose.

Pro-Choice Candidate Profile: Atif Qarni, District 13

By: Marieke van Rijn, Advocacy and Communications Intern

Our 100% pro-choice candidate of the day is Atif Qarni. Qarni is a former Marine and is currently an 8th grade math teacher at Beville Middle School in Prince William County who is running to represent District 13 in the Virginia House of Delegates. Qarni, a first time candidate, is running to defeat extreme anti-choice incumbent Bob Marshall.

Qarni is a 100% pro-choice candidate because he believes that family planning decisions are personal and not something for the government to be involved inImage. If elected, Qarni promises to fight those who target Planned Parenthood and those who try to restrict access to contraception, prenatal care, and other health services for women.

Qarni’s opponent Bob Marshall is in his 11th term and has been serving in the House of Delegates since 1991. During his tenure, Marshall has made pushing his anti-choice stance a priority, so much so that the mainstream Republican party regularly pressures him to back off on his extremism.  Marshall is the author of the state’s fetal personhood bill and has stated that he doesn’t care if his anti-choice stance could stall or kill an important bill, because he puts his anti-choice stance above all else.

With the federal government having been just shut down as a result of representatives putting their extreme anti-choice stances ahead of funding the government, electing someone who is willing to take similar actions in the General Assembly would just be absurd. Atif Qarni will focus on problem-solving, not creating problems by keeping women from being able to make their own medical decisions. We strongly encourage you to donate your time, money or resources to his campaign to ensure that Marshall will not use his anti-choice stance to obstruct the House of Delegates from properly governing Virginia.

Pro-Choice Candidate Profile: Jennifer Boysko, District 86

By Marieke van Rijn, Advocacy & Communications Intern

 Jennifer Boysko is running against incumbent Tom Rust to represent Fairfax and Loudoun County District 86 in the Virginia House of Delegates. As a strong pro-choice candidate, Boysko is an avid supporter of Roe v. Wade and believes that access to contraception and a safe and legal abortion should be “a settled issue”.

Boysko has actively worked with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and Planned Parenthood at a grassroots level for nearly three decades, and has been recognized as one of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s 100% pro-choice candidates. As executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Tarina Keene stated, “As a woman, dedicated public servant, and proud mother of two daughters, Boysko understands the critical importance of a government that respects and protects Virginians access to health care and fundamental rights”.

Now more than ever, Virginia needs representatives who will step up to protect women’s right to choose. Boysko’s frank and consistent support for women’s choice proves that she is a candidate who is willing to stand up and protect women’s choice in Richmond, and we are thrilled to support her candidacy.  Check out her website for more information and to help her win on November 5th!!

Last chance to stand up against McDonnell’s abortion coverage ban before April 3 vote

StopAbortionBanSmallNow is the time to tell the General Assembly: coverage for abortion is a basic part of comprehensive reproductive health care, and Governor McDonnell shouldn’t get to block even more Virginians from access to this coverage to suit his anti-choice agenda.

On Wednesday, April 3, 2013, the Virginia General Assembly will reconvene to vote on all of Governor Bob McDonnell’s vetos and amendments for this session — including his amendments to prohibit any plan being sold in the new health benefits exchange from including coverage for abortion care. The vote could come down to just one or two votes in the state Senate, which means your lawmakers need to hear from you today against this insidious attack on health care and abortion access for tens of thousands of Virginians.

Send an email to your Senator through our website here or find their contact information here to call or email their office directly.

The new health benefits exchanges, created under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), are designed to be a marketplace where consumers and small businesses can compare private insurance plans and purchase one that works for them.  The aim is to give people who are uninsured or under-insured now a straightforward way to find and access affordable, comprehensive insurance plans.  That’s why it’s so egregious that the governor is undermining this goal by seeking to ban Virginians participating in the exchange from buying truly comprehensive plans that are currently available on the private market.

Coverage for abortion care is an essential part of comprehensive health insurance. Just like coverage for birth control, prenatal care, and maternity care, insurance coverage for abortion gives a woman the ability to make the reproductive decisions that are best for her health, her life, and her family. Insurance companies recognize that — it’s why the majority of private insurance plans in the U.S. market today include abortion coverage. Paying for abortion care out-of-pocket can be prohibitively expensive for many families. This is especially true of more complicated procedures, such as when a woman’s health is at risk or later in pregnancy when the fetus has been diagnosed with severe anomalies — both situations in which McDonnell’s amendment would prohibit Virginians from having coverage through their insurance!

Gov. McDonnell and his anti-choice allies are trying to downplay this amendment. They’re falsely claiming that it’s just about preserving their anti-choice status quo of prohibiting public money from paying for abortion care. In reality, this amendment would go beyond the current standard and affect even Virginians who are using their own funds to pay for the premiums on private health insurance.

The fact is that people who use government subsidies to purchase health insurance through the exchange — just like state employees and Virginians on Medicaid — will unfortunately already be prohibited from having their insurance cover abortion under the federal Affordable Care Act law.  But not all states have not extended this abortion coverage ban to people who will be purchasing health insurance with their own funds through the exchange, as Governor McDonnell wants to do. For instance, just last month Minnesota passed its health exchange legislation without such a ban.

That’s why it’s especially important that your lawmakers hear the facts about what the governor’s abortion coverage amendment would do. They need to know that their constituents like you believe all Virginians deserve the ability to purchase affordable comprehensive health insurance that includes abortion coverage.

by Caroline O’Shea, Deputy Director

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has its facts wrong. Get the truth!

By Alena Yarmosky, Advocacy and Communications Manager

This is outrageous.

On Friday morning, the Richmond Times Dispatch published an unbelievable and stunningly inaccurate editorial on Governor McDonnell’s recently introduced abortion ban amendment. The editorial recycled Governor McDonnell’s false claims of “taxpayer funded abortion” and completely misrepresented the truth of the matter, all while ignoring the broad and unprecedented impact this ban will have on the health of thousands of Virginia’s women and families. Because it is obvious that that the RTD has been reading anti-choice talking points (and missing the facts), we’re here to set the record straight.

Their take: “[NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia]  says McDonnell’s amendment would block women from purchasing comprehensive health care ‘with their own private dollars. Not so.”

Our take: Um… yes so. If Governor McDonnell’s amendment is enacted, it will prevent thousands of Virginian women from purchasing abortion coverage with their own money.  Here’s how it works:

Virginia law and the Affordable Care Act already ban state-funded coverage for abortion, except in rare & life-threatening instances.

  1. Virginia law already prohibits state- funded health insurance coverage for elective abortions except in cases of rape/incest, fetal abnormality, or when a woman’s life is in jeopardy.
  2. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, does not require any state (including Virginia) to change its current bans on abortion coverage for women who participate in the exchange.
  3. Even if Virginia didn’t already have these bans, the ACA explicitly prohibits any federal funds from being used to pay for abortion coverage in exchanges – with limited exceptions for cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. To recap, that’s two concrete bans on public funding for abortion: one in Virginia law, and one explicitly outlined under the Affordable Care Act. No public money can or will be used to fund abortions within the new exchanges – period.

Government subsidies (which some Virginians will use to pay for health care through the ACA exchange) are already restricted from paying for abortion (except in the above – rare – instances). 

  1. The ACA requires insurers to keep private dollars completely separate form all federal funds, including federal subsidies. So, imagine that a Virginia woman is receiving government subsidies to help pay for healthcare through the Virginia exchange. If she decides to purchase coverage for abortion care (currently offered in the vast majority of plans), insurers are strictly prohibited from using government subsidies to do so.
  2. What’s more, the private funding used pay for abortion coverage must be kept strictly separate from all government funding. It’s 100% clear: No government money (including government subsidies) can go towards abortion coverage.

Gov. McDonnell’s amendment would ban all insurance companies – even separate policy riders – from providing plans that cover abortion. But we already know that state-funded healthcare cannot cover abortion, and no taxpayer money can go towards abortion coverage within the ACA exchange. What then, does Gov. McDonnell’s amendment actually do? That’s right…block women from purchasing comprehensive health care with private dollars.

It’s obvious, RTD:  This amendment is not about taxpayer funding for abortion.  Current law is clear, and  sadly public funding of abortion care is already forbidden, except in very narrow circumstances. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia believes abortion is basic health care and deserves coverage—both public and private.  But let’s be clear, public funding for abortion is not the issue here!  Instead, this amendment goes far beyond existing law, and imposes unprecedented limitations on private insurance coverage in our state that will block women in our state from getting care they need.

That’s why we’re fighting back. And with all of the myths and misrepresentations flying around, it’s extra important that your Senator understands exactly what Governor McDonnell’s abortion ban does – and what it means for the women of Virginia. Contact your Senator right now and tell him/her to reject McDonnell’s anti-choice amendment!

Together, we’ll set the record straight.

2013 Gen. Assembly Review!

The 2013 General Assembly session was fast and furious! Between attacks on birth control, pro-choice repeal bills, and sneaky amendments in the works, you may be confused about what exactly this year’s GA session means for the women of Virginia. But don’t worry – we’re here to break it down.

This year pro-choice champions in the Virginia House and Senate carried a total of 11 pro-choice bills, including legislation to repeal TRAP regulations, protect birth control in the Commonwealth, and strike Virginia’s current mandatory ultrasound requirement. We also faced 5 anti-choice bills, including legislation to restrict insurance coverage for birth control, ban sex-selective abortion, and repeal Medicaid funding for women with severe fetal anomalies.

Unfortunately, despite the valiant efforts of our legislative allies and our amazing pro-choice supporters, almost all pro-choice bills were defeated this session. Virginia’s anti-choice politicians were quick to strike down critical legislation to repeal TRAP regulations and the forced ultrasound law – in one case without even allowing for debate or discussion! Thankfully, we were happy and proud to see the passage of Del. Jennifer McClellan’s bill HB 1876, a pro-choice measure that will eliminate the waiting period before sterilization for Virginia residents who have not yet had children. Currently, childless women and men in Virginia are required to wait 30 days before obtaining an elective sterilization procedure, while those with children are not. This bill makes it easier for every person to decide whether and when to create a family, and we thank Del. McClellan for her great work on this!

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We are also relieved to report that despite several legislative attempts to restrict women’s health, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and our allies were able to defeat all anti-choice legislation this session – a huge win considering our overwhelming anti-choice state government!  We could not have done it without you and the hundreds of other pro-choice Virginians who contacted their representatives and demanded an end to Virginia’s War on Women. Thank you for everything you have done!

Unfortunately, while the session may have come to an end, the fight is far from over. As reported in a recent Virginian Pilot article, Governor McDonnell is quietly planning to attach an amendment to health care reform legislation that would severely restrict Virginian women’s ability to access critical health care. Although we were able to defeat all anti-choice bills at the committee level, Governor McDonnell would attach his amendment to a bill that has already cleared both the House and Senate – and would go to a vote by both chambers during the General Assembly’s veto session at the end of March. Get more information McDonnnell’s behind-the-scenes abortion ban – and help us fight back!   

Ultimately, beyond the legislative antics and extreme anti-choice rhetoric (check out this gem from Sen. Dick Black), every General Assembly session reminds us of how lucky we are to work with Virginia’s amazing, passionate, and unstoppable pro-choice activists! This year we stood with you in Richmond to honor 40 years of Roe v. Wade, participated in a super successful Pro-Choice Day of Action, and even took to twitter to fight for increased health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Virginia’s women and families.

We look forward to your support, activism, and enthusiasm as we continue the fight for reproductive rights in the Commonwealth!